Text: Romans 3-4 (Ps 134)
Observe Romans 3 begins with a Q & A, Paul asking and responding.
Q: What advantage is there to being a Jew, if the law can't keep them from God's judgment for their sin?
A: They have the Word of God. God remains faithful to Israel despite her faithlessness, proving His righteousness. But people must not sin more and more, thinking that His grace will increase (1–8).
Q: Are Jews better off than Gentiles?
A: No. Everyone sins; the law doesn't change that. (9–20).
Paul stresses keeping the law can never justify us before God, but faith in Christ by His grace can and does. Jesus died on the cross to atone (pay for) sin; God’s just anger at sin was satisfied in Christ's death[LM1] . God justifies – bestows His righteousness – on those who turn in faith to Jesus (21–28). Everyone can have this gift through faith in Him. (29–31).
Romans 4 explores the example of Abraham and God's remarkable gift of declaring him righteous only by his faith, long before Abraham’s circumcision. Because of this, he is father of all who believe God by faith, a model for us in learning that faith is truly a gift, growing utter trust in Him.
Interpret Romans establishes that everyone is guilty of sin; no one deserves God's forgiveness. Even knowing God's law, we still fail to obey. The only rescue from the penalty we deserve for sin (our death) is the death of Christ, carried by Him on the cross, God’s offer of salvation is for all people who turn to Him -- pretty inclusive!
That big word, ‘propitiation’ means that God’s anger against all sin has been completely put away as far as the east is from the west (Ps.103:12), as Jesus paid the price for our sin by His death. Our Father sees Jesus standing in for us, shielding us. We are forgiven, and truly His.
Q As 21st century believers, how do we remain right with God?
A As 1st century Paul insisted, by repentance and faith in Christ. This is true for all time.
We put Him first, giving up imaginary control of our lives, yielding our selves to Him daily. We pray to align ourselves with God and His purposes, the Bible, His Word, our manual for living His life. His grace changes us from the inside out, but that massive renovation is not easy. We have to learn deeply and remember that only Jesus’ death and resurrection secure our right standing before God. There’s no other way.
We’ll be mocked as religious nuts or fanatics, no doubt, but so was Jesus. Our world is hostile to faith, but it is where the cross of Christ is necessary, and effective. Father God longs that everyone would be made righteous in Jesus – so that’s our task, sharing our faith as part of His remaking.
We can’t make ourselves right. God works His righteousness/justice in and through us. Then we can bring His Kingdom to others, knowing the wonder of His freeing, sharing with conviction with those who don’t know Him.
Ask Are judgments I make about others the root of broken relationships and injustice? Can I stand the X-ray of the Word to expose my unrighteous behaviour? Do I rely on God’s grace to change me? Are good works and being a ‘good person’ my idea of ‘faith’?
Pray Lord, Romans is hard going, even reading Paul’s words with much care. I confess I have it so wrong, so often. I like to think deep down that I’m ok, but You know differently. By Your grace in Jesus’ immense, love-driven sacrificial death, help me die to my ways of doing and thinking and living, thankful for His death that bought my salvation. Jesus, take Your rightful place – at the centre of my life.
Sing Ps 134: Chris Juby - A Call to Night Worshippers https://youtu.be/vGtXxFJiEZs
Grace Soon - Behold, Bless the Lord https://youtu.be/LQCiPdKBFhk
Sons of Korah - Lift Your Hands https://youtu.be/sQXeHV49SQU
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.